Cartier Martin. Austin Daye. Ray Allen. John Wall. Kevin Love. Tony Parker. Dirk Nowitzki. Kevin Garnett. Each of those names, and several others, represents a heart-breaking loss the Sixers suffered over the past couple seasons. Each of those losses was a lesson. A lesson that has prepared the Sixers for these playoffs. For this game. Now it's time to go out there and take it.
Looking at this game objectively, I'd say home court advantage is going to be worth probably somewhere north of 10 points for the Celtics tonight. That's just a fact of life. The crowd is going to be crazy and the Celtics are going to get the whistles. As fans, we can complain about Paul Pierce shrieking like someone gave him a purple nurple every time he sets foot in the lane, and the refs falling for it, but the Sixers don't have the luxury, not tonight. The Celtics are going to get the whistles. The decrepit Celtics had an extra day of rest, and the crowd is going to breath a little more life into them whenever they go on a run. The deck is stacked against the Sixers. There are two keys to digging their way out of the hole losing the Atlantic Division has dug for them.
First, remember you're the younger team. Remember you've got an extreme athletic advantage. Every screen you run the Celtics through is a body blow. Every time you make a quick outlet pass and force Boston to sprint back on defense is another. Every time you drive the lane, force them to collapse, then kick it out and force them to rotate is more gas out of their tank. Wear them down. Grind it out. Be relentless. Be the aggressors, be quick to the ball and never let them rest when they're on the floor. If Kevin Garnett is going to play 40+ minutes, make sure he's a zombie by the 30th.
Second, and probably more importantly. Keep your poise. Think back to all those tough losses, all of them combined won't come close to this if you lose your cool and let it slip away. Enjoy the moment, but don't get caught up in it. Doug Collins really needs to play a big role in this area. He can't sit on the bench and let Boston go on a 12-0 run. He needs to be quick with his timeouts, and the guys on the floor need to play free without playing loose. Take care of the ball. Limit the turnovers, but don't lose the aggression. When Boston's on a run, don't go for the hero play, just put points on the board. This team has been together for two years, running the same system. Trust in the principles that got you here.
Finally, don't ever, ever relax. This game isn't won until the clock shows 0.0 and you're in the lead. If you're feeling tired, if you feel like taking a play off, just realize letting your guard down is going to result in months of rest. 48 minutes, or more. All out. Leave nothing in the tank. Leave no reason to hang your head when you walk off that floor, win or lose.
No excuses. Win.
The tip is at 8pm on ABC. Game thread will land at 6pm.